Michael Pollan's Botany of Desire proposes an intriguing idea that plants use us more than we use them. They appeal to the human desire for beauty, sweetness, intoxication, and control to ensure their survival. Pollan explores four desires, sweetness defined in the story of the apple, beauty in the...
story of the tulip, intoxication in the story of cannabis, and control in the story of the potato.
In the story of the tulip, the reader learns that the plant's beauty is its survival tool. It encourages humans to replant the bulbs, an important propagation technique. The author believes that plants influence humans to domesticate themselves. As part of an evolutionary strategy, plants manipulate our desires and advance their interests. Pollan highlights the symbiotic relationship between plants and humans.
Over millions of years, plants have evolved an array of defense mechanisms to ward off predators. For example, mechanical protection on the surface of the plants (thorns, spines, and hairs), or toxic chemicals (alkaloids, phenols, and quinones) either kill or retard the development of the herbivores. These tools allow the plants to survive and reproduce in the same area as herbivores. The strategy to repel rather than to kill is known as aversive conditioning. It is beneficial to both plant and animal and promotes a co-evolutionary environment.